Facts count, because what's mined is yours

Various technical topics related to science, energy, climate change and coal & gas.

Facts count, because what's mined is yours

Postby HVPA_research » Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:10 pm

*From BMPA mailing list*

Ross Gittins talks about the resource tax, ownership of minerals and Australia's future. He also gives statistics about how many jobs the mining industry actually supports.


But all the fuss people like me have been making about the boom has left many Australians with a quite exaggerated impression of the size of our mining sector. According to a poll conducted by the Australia Institute, on average people imagine mining accounts for 35 per cent of the goods and services the nation produces (gross domestic product).

But while mining's share of national production has increased significantly in recent years, it's still up to only 10 per cent.

Many of us see the main pay-off from an expanding industry as all the jobs it generates. So what proportion of the workforce is employed in mining? According to the Australia Institute's polling, our average answer is 16 per cent.

The truth? Even after all that expansion, less than 2 per cent. How could an industry responsible for 10 per cent of our production account for just 2 per cent of employment? By being intensely ''capital-intensive'' - by using a lot of machines and not many workers.

So, does that mean mining isn't really worth all the fuss? A lot of its industrial rivals will tell you so, but it ain't true. The true test of the worth of an industry is not how many people it employs but how much income it generates. And, particularly at present, mining is generating huge income. Do you realise it accounts for more than half the nation's export income?

The reason income trumps employment is that as income is spent it generates jobs. When you spend a dollar it percolates through the economy, supporting and creating jobs as it goes. So if mining creates 10 per cent of national income but only 2 per cent of national employment directly, that just means it supports another 8 per cent of national employment indirectly, in other (labour-intensive) industries.

Which other industries? For the most part, service industries. How can I be sure? Because after you allow for the 2 per cent of Australians employed in mining, the 3 per cent in agriculture and the 9 per cent in manufacturing, the remaining 86 per cent are employed in the many service industries: wholesaling and retailing (15 per cent), healthcare (11 per cent), construction (9 per cent), education and training (8 per cent), the professions (8 per cent), hospitality (7 per cent), public administration (6 per cent), financial and business services (6 per cent), transport (5 per cent) and many more.

Another reason I can be sure most of the jobs created indirectly by mining are in the services sector is that, for at least the past 40 years, all the net increase in national employment has come from the services sector.

It is true, however, that we must ensure we end up with something to show for this boom and that too much of the huge profit being made doesn't just end up in the hands of the mining industry's owners (about 80 per cent of whom are foreign). After all, the minerals they're mining are owned by all Australians, not the miners.

That's why it's good to see Julia Gillard's profit-based mining tax finally being passed by the House of Representatives, even though Tony Abbott's mindless opposition to it allowed the three big foreign mining companies to butcher the tax.

Ross Gittins is the Sydney Morning Herald's economics editor.

Read more:http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/facts-count-because-whats-mined-is-yours-20111122-1nsqo.html#ixzz1eUia4ETZ
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